I recently read the Official Snapshot and Machinima Policy on the Second Life (r) Wiki, which “gives you copyright permissions” to photo and video created in world. A couple of things stuck out to me. First of all, the policy speaks for both Linden Labs (LL, the company that runs SL) and the community of users. This says to me that somewhere in the Terms of Service (which I did read but have since forgotten) have impliedly given their consent for LL to speak for them as a whole. This is shown to be a rebuttable presumption (oh the legalese), but I will speak on that later.

The second thing that stuck out to me is related to the first in that, while land owners are allowed to revoke permission to take snapshots (on private islands) or machinima, tenants are not allowed the same privilege. If you are renting a home but are not listed as the land owner in the ‘about land’ box, then you have no say in whether or not someone can photo or video you space. This is generally not a big issue because if you rent a very small number of prim, then you would rent a skybox and are able to restrict who can access the skybox. Prim and space match up and the amount of prim that one is allowed is generally more important than that amount of space. Similarly, if you are renting a larger number of prim, then you are  given a parcel of land, which makes your name appear in the “about land’ box. I understand why this would make creating a policy easier, and I don’t have any argument with it, but it does have a very feudal feel. I guess that is why people who rent any significant amount of prim/land search for parceled space.

The last thing that I noticed was that photography (creating snapshots) is given more deference than machinimatography (video of virtual worlds) . Again I can understand why; a person is more likely in real life to deny the right to video than to take a photo and one would expect the same of an avatar. But don’t go looking for a gig as an extra anytime soon. If you are in a crowd or your avatar is not “distinctive,” then your consent is not required for machinima either. It is only if you are the star of a show or your name or look are noticeable and attributable to a specific avatar, that you consent is required.

These thoughts lead me to all kinds of questions, but the one I think on most is this: If I take pictures of you on your land without your permission and put them together to make a moving picture, do I have copyrights to that work?

Are you distinct enough that I should have gotten consent? Is this a machinima now? If I made your avatar a vampire, and it wasn’t when i photographed it, does that change it enough to get around things? If you are just one of many avatars that I did this to are you now a part of a crowd? What if I don’t know you, have never seen you before, and don’t remember your name… am I required to figure it out before I can use the works? If I use it as a backdrop to a machinima that I do, does it take copyright from that work?

Well, you see how my mind goes. There are lots of questions and no answers. I would just get a good lawyer and pray to settle quickly.

***** SL has a new viewer. I don’t know if that will make a big difference in what I talk about or how fast I get info to you, but I will persevere. As always I ask for contributions, comments, questions, and the like. Let me know what you want.

And if you would like an easier read than my ramblings, but want more second life, you can look at my friend’s fashion blog.*****